Fair Sustainable Future: Mayoral Hustings Report

On Wednesday 24th October the five front running candidates to be Bristol’s first mayor met at the Watershed to answer questions and disucss their vision for a fair sustainable Bristol. The event was organised by Bristol Friends of the Earth and Equality Bristol, with contributions from Bristol Green Capital members, Bristol Energy NetworkBristol Food NetworkNeighbourhood Planning Network and others.   

A video of the event is available at Bristol Friends of the Earth

Here’s our network response from the night… 

“It was a shame none of the candidates responded comprehensibly to the question on improving energy efficiency of Bristol’s buildings to make them fit for a low carbon future. Reducing energy use through energy efficiency improvements and behaviour change is quite different to, and arguably far more important than, generating energy from renewable sources – which is how the question seemed to have been interpreted. 

Making improvements to properties so that they require less energy to run makes a huge difference to fuel bills and helps to address inequalities linked to income / poverty. Reducing energy demand hugely increases the city’s overall sustainability. Rolling out retrofit programmes has enormous potential to support local jobs, improve the local economy, encourage local enterprise and community cohesion. And giving practical support to the work already being done by community groups on the ground can engage householders to improve understanding of energy and ensure that there will be a demand in Bristol for improvements like insulation.

None of the candidates seemed to have fully grasped the importance of energy efficiency, nor to have really got to grips with the range of renewable energy options available to us. Almost all candidates said at some point that they want to see solar on all the roofs of Bristol but they didn’t really address energy efficiency as being fundamentally more important (and effective). But in order to achieve that there is a huge challenge in communicating and engaging with the communities and people who can’t afford renewables or expensive retro-fits and are too busy to think about energy as an issue. If the mayor supports the work being done already by community groups and charities, Bristol will have a much better chance of becoming an exemplar city and a green capital.

Having said that, Jon did talk about retrofit programmes and ensuring that procurement policy did not stand in the way of supporting the local economy. In other answers, Marvin touched on fuel poverty and how real it is in many areas of Bristol. Geoff talked about government support for green industry and sustainable jobs being important, Daniella was keen to create green jobs and ensure self sufficiency in energy and food, and George gave several great examples of ‘keeping it local’ that he has already made successful.

We liked that Green Doors (Geoff), ELENA and Green Deal (Jon) ,fuel poverty (Marvin), the core strategy (Daniella), local retail (George) and limits of localism (Daniella again) were mentioned. We liked that the candidates were all opposed to the Severn Barrage in favour of more efficient renewable energy schemes elsewhere, and were all agreed that Pickle’s intervention in the decision about the palm oil bio fuel plant was neither sustainable nor in line with the localism agenda. We were also really please to have seen George at the most recent Bristol Energy Network event.

We’re interested in Marvin’s plans to ‘bend the spend’, George’s risk taking, Jon’s bus fares, Daniella’s prioritisation of local veg shops over supermarkets, and Geoff’s support for community groups to make things happen. We heard lots about what cities around the world are doing but some of the candidates didn’t seem to appreciate the success, range and potential of what’s already happening around their own city.

We don’t like that the weather’s set to drop to close to zero on Friday and there are thousands of homes and properties across the city that are poorly insulated, have inefficient heating systems and occupiers that are missing out on opportunities to make changes.

But we were really pleased to have been at the hustings and it’s mildly reassuring that some of these issues are beginning to be aired. We’d be delighted to discuss them further with the candidates (pre or post election), and if possible help fill in some of the gaps.”